Taking Back Our Town (2001) - full transcript

A true story about a concerned housewife, Pat Melancon, who tries to block Shintech, a massive Japanese petrochemical conglomerate, from building a plant in her toxic township already known...

[instrumental music playing]

[boat horn honks]

[truck horn blares]

[man speaking on radio]

So, what noise does
this animal make?

Well, it'’s a pig
and it goes
"oink, oink, oink".


And how about this one?

Well, it'’s a cow
and it goes "moo".

And then,
this one goes...


Mrs. Shea, Mrs. Shea,
are you okay?

Mrs. Shea...

-[tires screeching]
-Mrs. Shea!

-Are you okay?

-[car honking]
-Look out!

[gasping and choking]

I'’m Pat Melancon
My daughter?

Last room on the left.

There, there, baby.

There, there.

[Catherine sobbing]


Honey, you know what?

Let'’s get dressed
and go home, okay?

Mom, will she be okay?

Of course she will.

And the doctor said that
you'’re all perfectly fine.

But, what happened?

What happened was
you saved the lives
of four people today.

Maybe more.

But you still have to wait
till you'’re 16

to get your
driver'’s license, okay?

All right, now where'’s
that other sock?

Mrs. Shea...

Her eyes rolled back
in her head

and she couldn'’t breathe
and passed out, and...

Honey, they said maybe
it was a food allergy,

or I don'’t know,
a reaction to
something in the air,

I mean,
Mrs. Shea has asthmas.

Oh, sweetie.

You'’re okay, baby,

it'’s all over.
It'’s all over, baby.

[organ playing softly]

[indistinct chatter]

[music stops]

Ms. West, that
was wonderful.

Oh, thank you, thank you.

How'’ve you been?

I turned 72-years-old
and a great grandmother
two times.

God'’s keeping me around
for his own purposes.

You know,
I haven'’t been here
to this church

since I kept house for that
priest in Baton Rouge.

I'’m non-denomination
since 1990.

But Helene had to go
to her daughter'’s,

so she asked me
to play for her.

And I said, "Well, God'’s music
doesn'’t recognize Catholic,
Baptist, whatever."

It just floats in the air
for everyone to hear.

Yes, and no one plays
like you Ms. West.

Well, maybe so,
maybe so.

Oh, my, your family
has grown.

Yes, Catherine,


I was so sorrowed
to hear about your mama
and the cancer.

Your mama and daddy
and me

stood side by side
marching for integration

and you know
I loved her, your mama.

And she, you, Ms. West.
Thank you.

I lost my Yolanda
to cancer, too, too soon.

Her time was stolen from her
by all those

industries down there.

It was such a mess.

But do you think
anyone would listen to me
when I told them?

They all think I'’m crazy.

You know, Ms. West,
I just wanted to say hello

and to tell you
how wonderful it is
to see you looking so well.

Well, now you take care
of that family of yours,
Pat Melancon.

I will. Thank you.

Hey, Eric.

So, how'’s Emelda?
Did you get a word in edgewise?

Well, I hope I look
half as good as she does
when I'’m her age.

Just so as you don'’t
start talking that much.

Yeah, I bet this rain'’s
been good for your
sugarcane, huh?

It better be.

Eric'’s losing his lease.

Big plant coming in
from Japan.

Huge deal. A $700 million
petro-chemical complex.

Well, that'’ll bring some
new life in the economy.

Yeah, I'’m not so sure
we want that kind of life.

These lawyers from Shintech,
that'’s the name of the company,

show up,
and just like that.

Said they talked
to the council.

Well, I'’m on the council
and nobody talked to me.

-Eric'’s putting
a meeting together.

To learn more about
the plan and all.

Hey, you both should come.

Oh, I'’m working overtime.

Besides, being
an unemployed teacher,

Pat'’s more into learning
than I am.

Well, I keep telling him
it'’s never too late to start.

It'’s never
too late to start.

Come on, kids.

Come on, Christopher.

-Chris, go long.

Come on, get it, get it.

[Christopher] Catch.

Come on, I'’ll race you
to the backyard.

[Christopher] Okay, sure.

[birds chirping]

Christopher, slow down.

All right, now let'’s put
all the vegetables down here.

And then the potato salad,
so there'’s room for the meat
up there.

What are you doing?

[Pat] James, don'’t put
any more sauce on that.
It just burns black.

Here. Dive for it.

[Pat] Hey, Darren.

Chris, do you need
your inhaler?

Hey, hey. Here.

Darren, I expect you
to know better than
to run him like that.

He'’s not a baby, ma.

Ma, after this we really
need to go and get me
a dress for the dance.

Oh, honey, I got to
help Darren with his
college aid application.

[Darren] Why we
gotta do that now?

Because in two years
you'’re going to college.

And we got to pursue every
grant and scholarship available.

Mom, you promised.

Yeah, to get a good dress
in case she dances with
Eddie Camarot.

-Shut up.
-[Pat] Hey,
Catherine Elizabeth.

-Be quiet.
-[Pat] Thank you.

All right, dinner'’s ready.
Come on, kids.

[James] Come on,
let'’s sit down.


[James] Catherine,
that'’s enough.

[Pat] Dinner'’s ready.

Thank you.

Bless us, O Lord,
for these thy gifts which
we'’re about to receive

from thy bounty.
To Christ, our Lord.

[All] Amen.

[woman] Now, when you
compare Convent to other areas
in St. James parish,

there is 67 times more
toxic air pollution

and you compare Convent

to the industrial corridor
from New Orleans
to Baton Rouge,

which many consider
to be the most polluted
area in America,

there is 93 times more
toxic air pollution
per square mile, here.

Now you compare it
to Louisiana,

Convent is 130 times
more polluted than
the state as a whole.

It is no wonder that
parishes like yours
along the river,

rank highest in America
for deaths caused by cancer.

-Are there any questions so far?
-Uh, hi, I'’m Pat Melancon

and I grew up around here.

And, uh, I'’ve been around
these plants my whole life

and I just can'’t believe

that they would put
this stuff into the air

without somebody
imposing some kind of laws.

Yeah, well, all of these
toxic emission levels
are allowable

under Louisiana guidelines.

Take that chemical cloud
the other day on Highway 73,

where the woman passed out and
the child had to take the wheel.

That is what is known
as a toxic accident.

This is an acceptable risk
in the plant'’s operations.

[man] That'’s Pat's
daughter Catherine.

We'’re all
mighty proud of her.

So you'’re telling us that
we should all be glowing green,
or growing fins or something?

Or not.

What we want
to know about is Shintech.


Shintech would be
the second

largest petrochemical plant of
its kind in the whole world.

Proposed site,
right next to Freetown,

within a two mile radius
of all of Convent.

Now, Shintech has
requested permission

from the state
and your parish council.

Permission to admit

significant quantities
of five hazardous chemicals.

One, vinyl chloride

is a known cause of cancer.
and birth defects.

Two, ethylene dichloride,

a suspected human carcinogen
and fire hazard.

Three, methanol,

the cause of blindness
and liver damage.

Four, chlorine,
an asphyxiant, lung damage.

Five, hydrochloric acid,
highly toxic.

It would also emit
small quantities of chloroform,

carbon tetrachloride
and benzene.

All hazardous to
your air and water.

[James] Honey, did you get
my suit back from the cleaners?

[water continues running]


Uh, it'’s hanging
on the closet.

I love it when
you put on your suit.

I'’ll probably be
the only guy wearing one.

Hey, the union wouldn'’t
have you come to Baton Rouge

if they didn'’t
want you to run.

Vice President of local,
that'’s a big deal.


It'’s just notes
from the meeting.

Did you know that
PVCs contain dioxin?

The most toxic chemical
known to man.

That'’s the same stuff
they put in Agent Orange.

Oh, man, that stuff really
messed up lot of guys in Nam.

Yeah, well that'’s what
they'’re gonna produce
at this plant.

I don'’t think they'd want
to spray it on us.

What about accidents?

What about what happened
to Cath and Tammy?

That'’s what it was.
It was an accident.

They haven'’t built a new plant
here in 20 years.

People around here
need the jobs.

It'’s a good thing.

No use getting
everybody else scared.

Yeah, but even if 10%

of what they say
is true, I mean...

It hasn'’t hurt us.

I'’m still as healthy as I was
the day you met me.

[kids chatter]

-Hi, Andrea.
-Oh, hi, ladies.

-How'’re you?
-Good. Can I help you?

-Pat Melancon!

Dale, how have you been?

Right as rain,
right as rain.

Good. You know
Gloria Roberts, right?

-Of course, I do.
Ms. Roberts.

-You still teaching?
-Oh, yes.

What about you, Pat?
Heard you'’re going
back to work.

Yeah. I hope to start up
next semester.

Christopher is old enough now.

Good. Parish needs
good teachers.

You know, we went
to this meeting last night,

because of this new
chemical plant, Shintech.

Do you know
anything about it?

Do I know about it?

When anyone wants
to spend $700 million

in our Parish,
you bet I know about it.

We were just curious
about them.

What they'’re going
to build and all.

Here you go. We got a ton
of information on them.

They are real
sharp guys.

Researched Convent thoroughly
before choosing us.

Lot of lawyers make
a lot of paperwork.

Ladies, help yourself.


[Pat] "Dear, Mr. Kanagawa,"

I think that'’s how
you pronounce that,

"Let me emphasize
that Louisiana is
interested in having

you locate your
facility in this state.

I pledge the full support
of my administration."

-That'’s from
M.J. Foster, Governor.

And this is, uh...

from Kanagawa to Dale
thanking him for
the lovely gift.

And here'’s toxic admissions.
We got to copy that one.

Okay now, this...

is sent to Shintech

describing all
the Coastal Commission

and the Parish
Council members.

"Donald Himes,
black male,

employed with
chemical industry,

very quiet,

[snorting] Try giving
his kid a '’C' in math.

I had the daughter
in third grade, and
the mom'’s even worse.

[both chuckling]

[Pat] You know, why would
they need to have all this
information about the council?

Well, like Dale says,
they'’re awfully thorough.

Want me
to copy that, too?

No, 25 cents a page,
we'’ll copy just what we need.

Okay, that
will be 29.75.

-All right.

We could go broke
doing this.

Don'’t I know it.

[boat horn honks]


Whoa, that didn'’t
sound good.

[James] Motor'’s shot.

We need to order the part,
if they still make it.

You know we got that thing
when Darren was a baby.

[James] Well, maybe
it'’s time for a new one.

We can'’t afford it.

If you'’re going back
to teaching soon,
we can buy on time.

No, we are
maxed out, James.

[James] Okay. I'’ll see
if I can get the part.

Are you coming to bed?

You know, I'’ll be there
in a minute.

I'’m going to take some notes
on this new plant.

We'’re gonna have
another meeting.

Bet you'’re sorry Eric ever got
you mixed up in this thing.

No, it wasn'’t Eric's idea,
it'’s mine.


Well, don'’t you think
it'’s weird,

that the Parish Council

is practically giving
a welcoming parade

for this huge
chemical complex,

and nobody knows
anything about it?

Money talks.

Yeah, but Freetown'’s
practically in its shadow.

[James] Hmm. Well,
there'’s nothing you can do.

Sure. I mean, we can have
a meeting, invite everybody,

find out as much about it
before they build the thing.

Everybody including Freetown?

Especially Freetown.

I don'’t want you running
around Freetown by yourself.

-I'’ll be fine.
-I mean it, Pat.

All right. I'’ll find
somebody to help me.

[instrumental music playing]

[Pat] I mean, maybe I'’m
overacting, but...

it never hurts to get
more information.

[Emelda] All you need
to know is you are right
and they'’re wrong.

You are right.

They'’ll bring more pollution
into this community,

which has got too much
pollution already.

That may be true, Ms. West,
but we need to get our
facts straight.

Honey, put that
down there.

Facts, huh?

You know,
when I was a kid,

on the first Sunday
of every month,
we'’d have the baptizing

right down there
on the shallow part
of the river.

Now, I wouldn'’t put
my pinky toe in there.

See the land and the water
around here,

ain'’t no good no more,
except for some flowers,

'’cause we don't eat them.

Ms. West, if we can prove
that these plants cause
health hazards--

"If"? Don'’t be using
that word "if".

It is, "is" a health hazard.

"Is". When my Yolanda got
breast cancer ten years ago,

the plant said it was
from her taking
birth control pills.

"Well," I said to them,
"If that'’s true, then there are
a lot of men on the pill,

'’cause they're dying
from cancer, too."

See, these industries
get rich spewing poison.

Ms. West, I'’m terribly sorry
about what happened
to Yolanda,

but that happened
a long time ago
in Baton Rouge

and maybe because
of your loss, you can'’t
be objective about--

Are you saying
you don'’t want my help?

Look, Pat. God has
led you to here.

Just like He brought me
together with your mama,

marching to integrate
the schools.

I can remember you
on that bus,

so quiet and little.

Your family the only white
kids on the bus.

I was petrified.

But you were
on that bus.

Stop them
from coming here.

Stop them from pumping more
poison in our river and air.

Stop them from pumping more
poison in our river and air.

Stop them
from coming here.

Can I give you
this pamphlet... please?

Our meeting'’s
next week.

Do you want more petrochemical
plants in Convent?

Make an informed choice.
Do you want one?

Hey, can I give you this?

Why do I want to come
to some meeting for?

I'’d look like a fool
trying to stop a plant.

April, don'’t be saying
"can'’t" "no"
and all that negative.

'’Cause I just don't
want to hear it.

We need all the black people
in on this.

Else that big cancer
belching plant'’s gonna
be your neighbor.

How come the white folks
are so concerned?

Pat Melancon breathes
the same air we do.

It'’s a danger
to all of Convent.

We already got the killings
and the drugs.

But this here is something
we got a chance to do
something about.

I suppose you'’ll be
needing a ride
to the meeting.

April, I will be
truly grateful.

[Dale] Well, look who'’s doing
the cooking tonight.

Hi, Dale. Yeah, Pat'’s
been so busy planning
her meeting,

this is the only way
we are gonna eat.

I saw Pat the other day
at the office.

Yeah, she checked out
the Shintech deal.

She'’s a little worried
about the pollution and all.

You know, James,
there'’s nothing
to worry about.

All the hoops business
has got to jump through.

That'’s what I told her.

I better get this home
before it gets cold.

Oh, where did you say
that meeting was?

Tuesday, at
the community center.

That'’s it. You all
have a good one.

[birds squawking]

Catherine and Chris,
can you take the bus
home today?

Well, they said they'’d
have them copied by--

-Will you pick them up?
-Oh, jeez!

That'’s great. All right.

Oh, my God! I need
those papers tonight!

No, it'’s not you.
Christopher just--

You know what?
Let me call you back.

-[car honking]
-[Catherine] You'’re always
making a mess, Chris.

That'’s my ride.

-[James] Where'’s my wallet?
-[Pat] Laundry room.

Hey, Darren,
I need you home by 5:00.

Okay, bye.

It'’s so sticky.

Don'’t touch me. Mom!

My lunch?

I didn'’t get to it.
Can you get
a sandwich at work?

I promise. After tonight,
everything will be back
to normal, okay?

[Darren] Mom, there'’s been
an accident.

My fingers
are stuck together.

[Pat] All right, honey.
I'’m coming.

[birds twittering]

[gentle music playing]

Hello, this is
Emelda West.

Is April around in there?

Oh. How long ago?

[Pat] Okay.
Come on, kids.

Let'’s go. I don't
wanna be late.

[Emelda] April had
to take her grandchild
to the hospital,

so the Lord provided me
with a chariot.

[Pat] What'’s going on here?

-[man] Hi.

-Uh, no, thank you.

Don'’t you put
no sticker on me.
I'’m not here for that.

Well, please help yourselves
to some refreshments.

No, thank you, no.

Why don'’t you all come in
and take a seat?

Who'’re all these people?

No friends of ours.

[man] These are
exciting times.

[Pat] This is not fair.

Emelda, hi.
I'’m so glad you're here.
Sit down

-Eric, what'’s going on here?

Looks like your meeting'’s
been hijacked by the
powers to be. Come on.

You'’re just gonna get
some power yourself.

Want you all to join me
in a St. James welcome to...

George Walker, Director
of Public Relations
for Shintech.

We don'’t want him here!

You can'’t shout out
like that.

I'’m most certain
you can.

Thanks for the opportunity
to come here and talk
to you all about

our company and about how
we treat our neighbors.

[whispering] You will not
get anywhere in that fight.

I won'’t get anywhere
with your flexing fingers
tucked in that bag.

They saw us coming.

We got to
fight back, man.

Chemicals are
a part of life.

Products derived from
polyvinyl chloride,

which is called PVC
are vital.

Without PVC, you car
would cost you $1,000 more.

A typical home would cost you
at least $5,000 more.

PVC is used for water pipes,
and electrical insulation,

at the grocer
to preserve your meats.

It is also used
to substitute for
wood in construction,

and it is good
for the environment,
because it saves trees.

Of course, the most
important thing you'’d
wanna know.

Smooth, isn'’t he?

And I'’m happy to tell you.

Shintech will bring jobs.

A hundred and sixty-five
of them.

[people cheering]

[George] That'’s right.

They bought his lies.

[Mary] It'’s a good story.
When I heard this plant was
burning radioactive waste,

I thought something should
be done about it.

so I called up the Mayor
and I said,

"Hello, this is Mary Lee,
I'’d like to speak
to the Mayor."

Well, he didn'’t
return my calls.

Three, four times.
So the hell with this.

Always loved that
"Mothers Against
Drunk Driving."

That was started
by one woman

empowering herself
to protect her children.

So, I called the Mayor'’s
office again,

but this time I said,
"Hello, this is Mary Lee Orr

"President of Mothers
Against Air Pollution."

-"Just a minute."

Hello, Mayor.

Well, that'’s when I learned
the power of organizing.

And nobody knows about
organizing like us mothers do.

Around here, no one is gonna
listen to a bunch of mothers

with all their PR people
and their lawyers.

[Emelda] If the Lord wants
our voices to be heard,

it don'’t matter
who we are.

Let'’s say from now on,
we start all our meetings
by joining our hands.

[soft piano playing]

Lord, this group is gonna
grow into a thunderous herd.

We'’re gonna talk loud,

so loud, Shintech
gonna hear us in Japan.

We'’re gonna stop them
from coming here

and polluting Your
beautiful earth. Amen.

[all] Amen.

You know, maybe
the first thing that
we need to do

is form a committee

-to research the effects--
-There she goes.

Pat, the research
is in our homes
and our schools.

Now, I don'’t know
about you all,

but when I was growing up,
we didn'’t all have asthma,
or ear infections,

or chronic nosebleeds
like our kids do.

My own son has asthma,

and they say that
it'’s something that
kids just get.

Then St. James, Parish,
is gonna win the
"just getting it right."

You know, that'’s all
well and good, but if
we wanna do this,

we got to know
what we'’re talking about.

And in all that I'’ve read,
there is no proven link.

By the time scientists
prove it indisputably,

and by the time big business
allows them to say
they can prove it,

our kids will have
either grown up, or not.

Look, you all
are the moms here.

Nobody is gonna
fight this battle, but you.


All right. What do we do?

Get in their faces.

You hire a good lawyer.

And you elect
your officers.

You'’re the President.

No. You know, I'’m flattered,
Ms. West, but we need
to take a proper vote.

Anybody who doesn'’t want
Pat as President, say so.

Ms. West, I cannot do this.

I mean, I'’m gonna go
back to work and I'’ve
got my kids...

-I can'’t take this--
-Roseanne, you'’ve got
a fax machine.

You should be
the secretary.

Gloria, you are good
with numbers,

so she'’s the treasurer.

And Emelda, just what office
are you to boss us around?

[Emelda] I don'’t want
no office.

I don'’t want nobody
worrying about what
I'’m liable to say, you know,

in the name
of this organization.

I got to be free
to do and say

what I want,
when I want.

Now, let'’s get to work.


[Friloux] The St. James
Citizens for Jobs
and the Environment.

It'’s quite
a mouthful, ladies.

Glad to see the word
"jobs" in your club'’s name,

because Shintech is going
to bring jobs to Convent.

Mr. Friloux, we need jobs
that don'’t pollute
our air and water.

And if you'’ll
just allow me.

Of the 23 million pounds
of toxins released
into the air annually

in St. James, Parish,
22 million are admitted
in a four-mile radius

in and around Convent,
and this includes

ethelne di... um...

Ethylene dichloride. Yes,
we know all about that.

I heard about you organizing
that meeting in Convent
last month, Mrs. Melancon.

Rest assured,
the Louisiana Department
of Environmental Quality

will make sure Shintech
preserves the quality
of the environment

before we grant
an air permit.

Just how far along
in that process
are you, James?

I heard you were
at the meeting, too,
Mary Lee.

I was there, too,
if you'’re keeping
some sort of list.

When we issue their
proposed permit,

as always, there will be
a public meeting for those
for and against it.

Now, if you want, I will fax
the permit application
to your lawyer for review.

Who is representing
your little group?

They'’re currently
interviewing attorneys.
For now, just fax them.

Well, all right. But you won'’t
be able to understand it,
because it'’s Greek.

Well, I'’ll just get somebody
who can translate Greek.

Well, that is your
prerogative, Mrs. Melancon.

-[phone ringing]
-[woman] Mr. Walker,
did you get that fax?

[keys beeping]

[Darren] It says,
"How have you exhibited
leadership in your community?"

Well, you'’re the team
co-captain for one thing.

I don'’t really think
that'’s leadership.

Of course, it is, honey.

Every time you take
responsibility for a group,

or an activity,
that'’s leadership.

And also you can...

Also what?

What'’s wrong, Mom?

Oh, nothing. We'’ve been
trying to get--

We'’re trying to get
legal help and everybody
keeps turning us down.

Catherine, will you help me
with dinner please, sweetie?


How old were your
the first time you
kissed a boy?

Oh, I don'’t know, honey.
Maybe I was, uh, 16?

Some of my friends
have already done it.

I mean, well, you know,
not like French,

[Christopher miming]
"Oh, Eddie!
Mmm. You kiss so well."

Shut up, you little jerk.

Hey, Catherine...

[kids yelling]

Yeah, hi, Mary Lee.
Can you call me back, please?

-He threw it at me, too.
-All right, that'’s it.

Quit complaining.
You threw it on me.

But why'’re you crying--

Why'’re you getting
mad at me? She'’s
the one who threw it.

It hit me.

Okay, both of you,
go to your room now

and don'’t come out
until I tell you.

-Now, go.

[breathing heavily]

[slow music playing]

[Pat] And the Sierra Club
Legal Defense Fund

told us that they sympathize,
but they just can'’t take on
a case like this at this time.

I mean, we'’ve pretty much
got the same thing from
all of them.

Now, Shintech has
a team of lawyers.

I mean, they'’ve got
scientists, PR firm,
engineering firm.

Not to mention
a pro-business Governor,
who'’ll bend over backwards

to bring 700 million
into the state.

[Emelda] Amen to that.

Thanks, John.
Meet Pat Melancon...

-Hey, John.
-And Emelda West.

You'’re a lawyer, baby?

This clinic is made up
of students like John,

who are in the last year
of law school.

The state allows them
to represent people
who can'’t afford

an attorney otherwise.

Yeah, we'’re the ones.

You shaving yet?

[Bob] Of course,
Lisa and I closely
supervise them.

And we can only handle
so many clients at a time.

Your case requires
hours of research.

There is the water permits,
the air permits,
public hearings,

the State Department of
Environmental Quality

all the way up to
the Federal Environmental
Protection Agency.

We are prepared
to do what it takes.

Environmentalists have
been trying to clean up
"Cancer Alley" for years.

But these are industries,
they just get stronger.

"Cancer Alley?"

The chemical corridor
between Baton Rouge
and New Orleans

It'’s where Convent is.
You'’ve never heard it
called that?

Well, would you call
your home something
like that?

I... I'’m really--
I'’m sorry. I didn't...

We'’re organized to put
that cancer in remission.

Now, are you going
to help us, or not?

I sincerely wish we could.

[Emelda] We don'’t
need them anyway.

Helping poor folk, hah.

Just look at
that Lisa LaVie.

She doesn'’t know
how poor folk can be.

Just look at her clothes.

Hah, we don'’t need them.

-We do need them.
-I say we don'’t.

Ms. West, we cannot
do this by ourselves.

We know enough about PVCs,
and chemical runoff,

and toxic waste and--

[tense music playing]

Oh, no!

[workers shouting]

They'’re starting construction.

How can they do that
without the permit?

They'’re doing it.

But they'’re not going
to get away with it.

They'’ve started digging.

Yeah. I believe it was
site preparation, yes.

Preparation, contamination,

Ms. West, please.
Can you repeat that?

In Louisiana, a company
isn'’t supposed to begin
any construction

before obtaining
its permits.

Pretty arrogant move
by Shintech.

Or by the state.

[Pat] Wait a minute.
You think the state
approved this?

Get the car,
we'’re going to
Baton Rouge.

You know, who can...
Who can we talk to
about this?

[Emelda] Let'’s go, Pat.

I can make a call
and get back to you.

As a favor, Pat.
We still can'’t
take on your case.

So, I'’ll call you later.

[Pat] Okay.

One phone call, that'’s all.

-I know.

You know, I'’ve thinking
about getting an organic
turkey this year.

They are kinda expensive.

My Union gives away
turkeys free every year.

Well, where'’re they from?

-The turkeys.

I don'’t know.

Well, if they'’re from
around here, I won'’t have
my family even touch them.

What'’s gotten
into you, lately?

Look, the land
around here is poison.

[laughs scornfully]

Look, the plants around here
pollute the air and water,

which contaminates the soil
where they grow the grain
to feed the turkeys,

who drink
the contaminated water.

Okay, teach.

By the time that turkey
spends seven hours
in that oven,

no germs or bacteria
is gonna survive.

Well, fine. That'’s just
the kind of ignorance

that got us here
in the first place.

Look, Pat.

I know you'’re way
more educated than me.

But any idiot can see
you'’re going way overboard
with all this stuff.

What do you mean
by that?

You'’re talking
about our home.

A home that I work
damn hard for.

In one of these plants,
where I'’m lucky to be

Think about that next time
you start preaching
this liberal stuff

about how bad
it is around here.

[door slams]

So this will let Shintech
know that you'’re already
enabled to work

with them
here in Freetown.

And that includes you, ma'’am.

We'’d like
to sign you up, neighbor.

[woman] Honey, go on.

Look, keep your
fancy pen.

Do you know
who I am?

I don'’t think we've had
the pleasure of meeting.

Janice Dickerson, Director
of Community Relations

for the State Department
of Environmental Quality.

She'’s the mother West.

Ms. West, why don'’t you read
this before you judge us?

I know how to read
more than some folks here.

"I am interested in job
opportunities that Shintech
has to offer." Huh.

Anyone ever got no jobs
in these plants around here?

My five sons,
all educated,

all had to leave
the area to find work.

You all know, this Shintech,
ain'’t no different.

Ms. West, give us a chance.

That'’s right, Ms. West.
Give them a chance
to help you.

State shouldn'’t be
taking sides.

I'’m just here
building a bridge
between both sides.

Encourage development
and getting people
back to work.

If Shintech'’s gonna
give us jobs,

then you tell Shiintech
and your DEQ

to put that in

in handwriting.

Handwriting. See?

[gentle music playing]

[gentle snoring]

[Pat] Shintech asked
permission from the DEQ.

That'’s the Louisiana
of Environmental Quality.

We know what
a DEQ is.

[Lisa] Anyway, the DEQ allowed
Shintech to proceed with
site preparation

based on a pretty sketchy
20-year-old guidance document.

[Pat] I don'’t understand.

I thought you said that
they couldn'’t start.

By law, they shouldn'’t.

You need to draft a letter
to the DEQ challenging
the construction.

You need to CC
the Attorney General.

That'’ll stop them for now.

[Emelda] We hope.

[instrumental music playing]

-You married?
-Ms. West.

No, no. It'’s okay.
It'’s okay.

My boyfriend, Roger, and I
have been together
for three years.

And right now,
we don'’t really see
the need to get married.

Well, in here,
family is key.

See, Freetown was founded
right after the Civil War,

so lots of its people
descended from slaves.

We ought to get out
right here, '’cause you
can'’t drive down the lanes.


[ambient noise]

[Emelda] Oh, Mavis.

-Hello, how are you?
-Oh, how are you, Mavis?

[indistinct talk]

[Emelda] Mavis here is
four generations.

Now five,
here in Freetown.

She grew up with
all those plants
around her.

Yeah, I grew up with
the odors, coughing,

my kids'’ ear infections.

Last year, the sirens
went off three times.

Shelter-in-Place Drill?

Yeah, that'’s what they
call them, but they
were no drills.

You hear the siren,
you'’re supposed to run
inside your house,

lock up all the doors
and windows so that can'’t no

outside air pollution
get inside.

Just stay there
until they blow
the all clear.

You could see this place
isn'’t exactly what
you call air tight.

[dog barking]

[Pat] Roseanne, I already
looked over the DEQ'’s.

You can hand them out,
but you might want to
vet '’em one more time.

-You might wanna look--
-I'’ll pass them on.

All right, great.
Lunch, everybody.

Here we go.

This is gonna
save the Clinic

lots of time
in researching the briefs.

The clinic?

From this day forward,
the St. James Citizens
for Jobs and the Environment

is represented by the
Tulane Environmental
Law Clinic.

If you still want us.

[excited laughter]

Are you nuts?

Are you kidding!

Okay. Well, we don'’t have
a lot of time,

because we only
have 30 days

to review
and file comment

before the state will make
its final decision
on the air permit.

Thirty days, that'’s good.

Considering they usually
allow 100 days of
public review

for a sewer expansion, no,

it'’s not good.

The State has put this
plant on fast track

and you'’re the only ones
standing in their way.

And we'’re not moving.

Well, we'’ll handle
the legal filings,

but you'’ve got
to get people
to the hearings.

And you got to get
people like Mavis.

People who can witness
how these plants destroy
the quality of their lives.

The community
will get behind us.

-And just remember,

you are going up
against a lot of power
in the state.

[indistinct chatter]

Famous Melancon
peanut butter
and jelly sandwich.


What you got here?

It'’s the last sandwich
you'’ll ever eat.

Now, you'’re sleeping
on the job, huh?

[factory whistle]

I got to get back.

What? You working
16 hours again?

Got to, bills to pay.

Well, I suppose Pat'’s
rabble rousing is getting
kinda expensive, eh?

It'’s not rabble rousing.

As a friend, Jimbo,

I hear a lot of guys saying
maybe you ought to keep
more of an eye on her.

You know, with Union
election coming up and all.

People should mind
their own business.

It is our business when
your wife goes traipsing
around the state

meeting with the Governor.

[clock chiming]

The Governor
will see you now.

And it'’s not just
the elevated cancer,
asthma and birth defects

rates that exists
within our community,

we'’re also extremely
concerned about its

proximity to our
elementary school--

There'’s no proven
link here now, it there?

Look, Governor, we got
people sick and dying
right and left in our town

round all those plants.

Why do you think
they call it
the Cancer Alley?

There are regulations.

And doggone if this
administration is gonna
make sure

they'’re lived up to.

Now, the DEQ tells me
that Shintech so far,

has followed all
the Louisiana rules.

[Emelda] Now, that'’s
what we were afraid of.

Governor, could we ask
that you extend the public
comment period

on the air permits?
It'’s just we need more time.

You ladies got to understand
that companies have time tables.

They don'’t have eight years
to build a plant.

You hold them up to the point
it'’s economically
unfeasible to come here,

they'’re gonna go
some place else.

And Louisiana is gonna
lose a bunch of jobs.

Well, Governor,
with all due respect,

if industrial development
is supposed to bring jobs,

then why do we have
62% unemployed

in one of the most
industrialized parishes
in the state?

I'’m gonna give you
a couple of more weeks
on the comment period.

Thank you.

There'’s nothing else
I have the jurisdiction
to help you with.

Well, why not?
You'’re the government.

The last time I checked,

Heard you were
pretty impressive at
the Governor'’s office.

Well, I guess I was
too nervous to notice.

Here. I hope it helps.

It sure will.

Well, I got to take these
for the rest of my life.

Doctor said I lost
30% of my lung capacity.

It'’s the asthma that
made me real susceptible.

Sure makes it hard
chasing after the kids.

Tammy, you need to come
to the air permit hearing
next week

and tell about this.

I don'’t know, Pat.

It'’s just an accident
that I just happened
to drive through--

Yeah, but there was
no siren, no warning.

[Tammy] The company'’s
been real good to us.

They paid all
my medical bills.

They help when they can.

Well, I know everybody'’s
got to do what'’s best
for their family, but--

You know, I hope you have
a real good turnout, Pat.

Truly, I do.

[Pat] So Catherine has
dance practice five o'’clock
on Monday.

You know,
you should take
that one, James.

I got a meeting
at 4:30.

And Christopher stays late
for the Christmas pageant
every night this week.

Honey, what time do they
pick you up for that?

-I don'’t know.
-Are there any clean
glasses in this house?

Darren, please.
Just wash one.

You know what, call
Wanda at the school
and find out what time.

And Darren has basketball.

And you need to give
Kyle a ride, too, because
we carpool this week.

Oh, and Catherine'’s
got piano.

Yeah, and I'’ve got
dance on Thursday, too,
because of--

James, call and cancel
her piano.

You know what?
I can do that.

Don'’t put yourself
out there.

What do you
mean by that?

Never mind, go on.

No, you were
sarcastic with me.

You have been
for weeks. Why?

[James] Why?

Take a look
around you, Pat.

You'’re mad because
I haven'’t done the dishes?

You could do them,
you know?

I work two shifts.

All I ask is when
I come home there'’s
a place for me to sit down.

It'’s piled so high with boxes
that nobody'’s supposed
to touch but you.

Fine, I'’ll just move them.
All you have to do
is tell me.

[James] How can I
when you'’re always
on the phone?

Or out, God knows where
meeting the Governor.

Is that what
this is about?

-Mommy, Daddy, please stop--
-You could have told me!

-I only know the day before--
-How come the whole plant knew?

Beside, every time I talk
about my work,

you make me feel
like I'’m--

Your work?
Teaching'’s your work.

Getting paid about
something you know about.

-That'’s work.
-You know that

I can'’t go back to teaching,
they'’re depending on me.

What about us?

-[Christopher wheezing]
-Mama. Mommy, Daddy, please.

Oh, God.

James, help me.
Here we go, honey.

-It'’s okay, buddy.
-Here we go, here we go.

Deep breaths.

[deep breathing]

What'’s the doctor saying?

We did everything
we should.

He said the attack
was probably brought
on by stress.

Pat, that'’s why you've
got to stop all this.

No, James. That'’s why
I have to keep going.

I'’m not the reason
that Christopher has asthma.

It'’s the air we breathe,
and the water we drink.

The sick kids, the cancer
rates I'’m learning about...

It'’s killing us.

It probably killed
my mother.

You can'’t prove that.
You don'’t even know
it'’s true.

Yes, I do.
In my heart, I do.

And your son in there,
struggling for breath...

I mean that'’s all
the proof that
you should need.

Or Catherine, when Tammy
lost control of her car,

a chemical cloud.

What they call an accident
almost killed our daughter.

And nobody, not the Governor,
not the Parish,

is doing anything
to prevent it from
happening again.

And what makes you think
you can do anything?

I don'’t know.
I don'’t know if I can.

But I care too much
about you and the kids

to let them treat our home
like a dumping ground.

And in that meeting
next week, we got
to fill the room

with people who care
as much about their
families as we do.

And then there'’ll be
another meeting
and another.

We got to stay
in their face until they
take us seriously.

You gonna piss off
a lot of people, Pat.

I know.

And that'’s why I need you
and the kids to understand
what I'’m doing.

James, I can'’t
do this without you.

You won'’t have to.

♪ Take a leap of faith

All right,
thank you so much.

♪ Take a leap of faith

♪ In the arms of a stranger

♪ Feel like you'’re falling ♪

♪ Someone is calling

♪ Saying stop playing safe

♪ Take a leap of faith

[indistinct audio]

♪ There'’s a border that
Runs through this town ♪

♪ Fighting the bitter
And sweet ♪

♪ Someday that fog
Will come down ♪

♪ I do believe

-[Pat] I know.
-[James] Come on, kids.

♪ Take a leap of faith

♪ In the dark of the night

♪ Take a leap of faith

♪ In the arms of a stranger

♪ Feel like you'’re falling ♪

♪ Someone is calling

Okay, see you there.

Thank you so much.

[Lisa] House group
has 1200 signatures
on their petition.

That is over
half of Convent.

They are doing
their part,

let'’s make sure
we do ours.

This is not enough time.

[Lisa] All right, so what
have you got so far?

Actually, I may have
found some discrepancies
in their application.

Go on.

In the application,

Shintech has categorized
two VCM cracking furnaces
as heaters.

But, their own
diagram show

the furnaces
convert EDC

to vinyl chloride
and hydrochloric acid.

It'’s a classic definition
of an indirect fired

chemical process reactor.

So they'’re calling it
a heater, when it'’s
really a reactor?

It certainly
appears that way.

Well, if a reactor leaks
it is a far more
serious situation.

I mean, have they provided
adequate protection for this?

If a leak develops,
toxic clouds can migrate
several miles,

exposing all of Convent
and the surrounding areas.

No offense, but they'’re
never gonna listen
to a student on this one.

I worked in
a chemical plant
for two summers.

I know a chemist there,
who'’s pretty pro-environment.

Okay, see if you can
get him to confirm this.

[Pat] All right. Now, let me
put these right here.

Peanut butter again?

It'’s got a lot of protein.

I promise, I'’ll go
to the grocery store

Hey, James. Remember
the meeting'’s at 5:30,

Mmm-hmm. Yeah.

Larger lights
go on the bottom.

[kids indistinct chatter]

I don'’t know why
you have to do this
today of all days.

Tomorrow will be
something else.

Before you know it,
Christmas will be over.

It'’s okay. You go make
the world safe for children
and other living things.

We can handle
the Christmas tree.

You'’ll be there, right?

-You promise?

[Emelda] I still don'’t know
why you had to pick me up
two hours early.

What are we
gonna eat, anyway?

Maybe they should
open up a peanut butter
plant here.

Yeah, I don'’t wanna
get ambushed this time.

I wanna make sure everybody
gets signed up to speak.

Who are the people
on this list?

They'’ll be
speaking tonight.

Lot of them are
flying in from Texas.

So, the speakers
will be in this order?

Yes, that'’s what it means.

All right, that doesn'’t
seem quite fair, because

we have people coming
to speak against

who haven'’t
arrived yet either.

Go ahead
and sign them up.

Meaning, I'’m gonna be
number 42 to speak?

If that'’s where
you are on the list.

Like trying to register
to vote with Dr. King.

We just got to fight them
with their own
procedure rules.

Show them we can,
'’cause "can't" is not
in the Lord'’s vocabulary.

Hi, I got here early
like you said.

-Where do I sign in?
-Right there.


-You came.
-I'’m a little nervous.
Speaking in public.

You'’re gonna be great.
Thank you so much.

Just sign up
right there.

Hey, Mrs. Melancon.

Ha! It'’s good
to see you again.

Now, I hear you'’ve got
a large family,
Mrs. Melancon.

So please, here.
You help yourselves.

[man] You may speak
in opposition to
the proposed permit

in support or simply
to provide information.

Your comments will
be recorded and taken
into serious consideration

before a final
decision is reached.

Now, I'’m gonna call
four names at a time, so,

stand by and be ready.

Our first speakers are
E.E. Schroeder for Shintech,

in support.

Rex Smith, in support.

Wayne Sorenson,
in support.

Joyce Baker, in support...

You know, Sharon,
if you could just stay
a few more minutes,

-I'’m sorry, but...
-Let me just give you...

-I appreciate your coming.

Herbert Falkest, in support.

[woman] Hi, thank you
and thank you to Shintech.

You know I got
the early shift tomorrow.

Yeah, I know.

Why don'’t you
go on home, honey?

-You sure?

...support them in this.

They'’re gonna bring
a lot of work to our community,

which, as you all know,

we could really use
at this time.

-[infant crying]
-when there has been
so much unemployment.

Pat, I'’m sorry. I really
have to go. I have
to put the babies to bed.

You know, you really
made a difference
coming here tonight.

-I appreciate it.
-All right.

I'’ll talk to you soon.

Uh, I own a small business
in Freeport, Texas,

and... and what
that business is
selling mini motor homes.

[mixed chatter]

I got to tell you,
since Shintech
came in to town,

my business
has tripled.

[whispering] This is not...

[man] And it'’s just been
wonderful thing for my family,

and I have hired
more people,

I mean, not a lot, but,

I just wanted to share that
with you folks here in

the great state
of Louisiana.

And... I'’m proud.

No, no, I'’m honored

to have Shintech
as a neighbor.

We got business
with Shintech, too.

How about equal time?

Yeah, how about it?

[woman] We want equal time.

[man] Courteous behavior
is expected of everyone
at all times.

You guys took over
our meeting.
Now what about it?

[man] Courteous behavior
is expected of everyone
at all times.

Wait a minute.

[man] Go get him, Pat!

You just wait a minute.

That'’s right.
You tell him, Pat.

[people clamoring]

Hey, hey, hey.

Let her speak.

Let her speak.

[angry clamoring]

Let her go!

We don'’t want no riots
around here.

You know what?
We'’re not going
to put up with this.

The people of Convent
have to sit here and wait

while they fly in
consultants and employees
from Texas?

Shintech'’s got
a plant there, Pat.

They flew in
the whole parish council
down there,

and I tell you, you walk
into their plant,

you can practically
eat off the floor.

We'’re not talking
about the floor, Eric.

That plant is one-third
the size of what they'’re
proposing here.

I mean, it'’s apples
and oranges.

-This is mal--
-Hey, you work for the state.

Your obligation is to
make sure this process

works for the people
who live here.

I got people in there
waiting to speak,
who brought their kids.

Tomorrow'’s a school day.

Perhaps they should
have left their kids home.

You know what? They
can'’t afford a baby-sitter.

They bring their
kids with them everywhere.

Besides, I want
those kids there.

I want those kids
at every meeting

so you can see just
exactly who it is
you are poisoning.

Oh, Mrs. Melancon, please.

In the spirit of Christmas,
let'’s try to get along.

Um, you know,
my husband put up
our tree today.

And in the spirit
of Christmas,

I would like to invite
Mr. George Walker
of Shintech

to join me
at the podium.

[people booing]

-[man] Go home.
-[woman] Go home.

Thank you, Mr. Walker.

Now, if I'’m not mistaking,

this plant will be
the only one

of its kind
to manufacture
all three

Vinyl chloride monomer,
ethylene dichloride,
and polyvinyl chloride.

Did I say those
all right?

You'’re doing fine
Mrs. Melancon.

Thank you.

You want a job?

That'’s funny. It's funny
you should say that,

Shintech is going
to guarantee 165 jobs
to the people living here.

-Is that right?
-Well, we'’re certainly
going to guarantee

equal opportunity.
Obviously, it'’s a
two-way street.

People have to be
educated, have
computer skills.

Okay, so are you planning
to train us?

Well, uh, understand
first and foremost,

I work for
a profit making

Well, just how many of us
are gonna get those 165 jobs?

How many?

Answer the question!

That'’s impossible,
really, to answer tonight.

Okay, what about safety,
Mr. Walker?

The vinyl chloride monomer,

the primary dangerous
chemical, which you
pronounced so nicely,

Mrs. Melancon, will not
be present in quantities
that would harm anybody

even with prolonged
exposure over a lifetime.

[Emelda] Just enough
to kill you, slowly.


And what if
there'’s an accident?

The plant is designed
with safety in mind.

The community
will be warned.

Sirens will go off.

Residents will follow

Right. So they should just
go into their homes to their
airtight walls and windows?

[George] Yes, yes,
that'’s right.

You know, next time
you'’re in Freetown,
Mr. Walker,

just check out how
airtight their walls
and windows are.

That is right.
That is right.

-You come to Freetown.
-Come see that.

I mean, we may be poor,

and we may be unskilled,
but we are not stupid.

-[Emelda] That'’s damn right.

And we'’re sick and tired
of industry coming here

and leaving us nothing
but bad odors,

-and toxic fumes.

And leaving our children
with asthma
and ear infections,

our loved ones dying
of cancer.

[woman] Damn right.

Listen to what
she'’s sayin'.

You'’re gonna
take care of our kids?

We have waited
a long time.

I mean, I'’m not just
talking about tonight.

We have waited
a life time

to say enough is enough.

[woman 1] That'’s right, Pat.
Tell him, Pat.

[woman 2] She'’s telling
you the truth.

Enough is enough.

That'’s right!

Enough is enough.

[all chanting]
Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

So, that'’s it?

[Lisa] The DEQ
approved the air permit.

But we still have
the Environmental
Protection Agency

and they can veto it.
We sent in
our objection--

You know, we got
all those people there

and then they
went ahead as if
we were invisible.

You know they have been
on Shintech'’s side
from the very beginning.

[Lisa] If we can prove
to the EPA how
biased they are,

then we'’ve
really got a case.

[Gloria] What about
all those letters

that we saw over
at the council office, Pat?

From the Governor
and Dale welcoming them.

You saw these?

They sent a list
to Shintech

describing the council
members that would
be cooperative.

Pat, we need
to get these letters.

Well, James did all
the Christmas shopping
this year, Lisa.

I barely spent
Christmas day
with my kids.

What kind
of a mother is that?

A mother who knows
what'’s more important
than gifts.

I'’m sorry, but I don't
really think you know

what it'’s like to give up
so much time with your family.

-Shh. Pat...
-No, she can'’t know

how much it hurts
to let down the people
that you love.

Pat, Lisa postponed
her wedding.

After three years
Roger'’s finally going
to do the right thing--

[Gloria] Who'’s Roger?

How do you
know this, Emelda?

Because I ask
questions, that'’s why.

Everybody is so concerned
about minding their
own business.

We are
each other'’s business.

You know what I mean?

Lisa, I feel terrible.

-I'’m so sorry.
-That'’s okay.

I don'’t have time
to plan a wedding
right now, so...

I'’ll get married in June,
after we stop Shintech.

I don'’t think
we'’re going down
the right path

is we start talking
about contract and out.

We need something
to bargain with.

Well, I can'’t let my men
lose overtime
to contract workers.

Ah, James, you ain'’t got
a whole lot of credibility
around here,

when it comes
to protecting jobs.


Your wife'’s out there
fighting tooth and nail
against jobs.

What jobs?

You all know,
a new plant comes in here,

it considers us
too unskilled.

Won'’t even train us
for better jobs.

I think Pat'’s
got you trained.

-Open your eyes.
-Open yours.

I'’m surprised as hell
she'’s still standing.

[tense music playing]

Is that a threat?

Just an observation.

[tense music playing]

Now I need your
tax returns from
last year.

Dad said to ask you.

Uh, Darren, I can'’t
get it right away if you
need it this week.

[phone ringing]

That'’s definitely for you.

[Pat] Hello.
Hi, Ms. West. Well...

Oh, Lord. All right.

All right,
I'’ll be right there.
I'’ll be right there.

Hey, Darren,
could you watch
Chris for me?

Why is it you can
always say yes
to them?

[tense music playing]


[dog barking]

"The St. James Citizens
for Jobs and the Environment

have banded together
with several radical
environmental groups"?

I mean, "using
scare tactics to
frighten citizens.

Support Shintech
locating in Convent."

Hmm. As fas as I can see,
they sent this to everyone
in Convent. Anonymously.

Damn fools even
sent it to me.

I mean, who would
have sent such a thing?

[Lisa] The number
on the postage meter

traces it back
to the parish
council office.

Are you sure?

Yes, they sent out
over 400 of them.

It'’s just more
proof of bias.

Lisa, I really
appreciate your help.

Oh, Pat, come on.

You'’re our client,
it'’s our job.

Besides, missing a chance
to nail these guys

will be like
missing Mardi Gras.

It'’s just not possible.

I don'’t know
what list you refer to.

It was a letter
to Shintech'’s law firm

listing the members
of the council,

and it was here
a couple of months ago.

Well, maybe you should
have copied it
a couple of months ago.

Is Dale here?

I think he'’s
in a meeting. Why?

Well, I don'’t suppose
you know anything
about an anonymous flier

that was sent out
to 400 residents
of Convent

in support of Shintech?

[phone ringing]

[Pat] Fifteen pages
to copy.

[Andrea] Fifteen pages
at 75 cents a page.

[Pat] Wait, wait, 75 cents?

It used to be
25 cents a page.

Well, it went up.

[Lisa] These are
public records.

Louisiana law prohibits
charging more than
the actual cost

of copying the document.

Seventy-five cents
just the same.

Now, Mrs. Melancon
and her ladies group here

having been asking
some questions about

that flier sent from one
of our offices,

and about a dossier
sent to Shintech

with profiles of all of us
here on the council.

They claim it shows
the council is biased.

Therefore, we should
all recuse ourselves.

Well, this is the
big league, ladies.

When Shintech asks us
for a scouting report

so that they would know
who the players are,
we give it to them.

That'’s not bias.

That is promoting

Now we'’re elected to do that.
Elected by the people.

Now, if there are
no more questions,

we will vote on the
motion to issue Shintech
the coastal use permit.

All in favor?

[all] Aye.


Steamrollered meeting
after meeting.

Ms. West, don'’t you
ever get exhausted
by this?

When the Lord gives me
all the wakefulness
I need to do is work.

Then He tells me,
"Emelda, it'’s time
for you to shut the phone,

shut your eyes
and give yourself
some rest."

So, I do.

Now, I know, it'’s not
so easy for you.

You got the kids.

And then it'’s just
the kind of person
you are,

who just gives and gives.

[tense music playing]

Hold on.

-What are--

I think I'’m
being followed.

That car,
I see it everywhere.

I'’m scared.

That'’s why they do it.

I'’m afraid for my kids.

Don'’t be afraid
for your kids.

Don'’t be afraid
for yourself.

The Lord did not put
us here to live in fear.

I don'’t want to hear
nothing about no fear.

You'’re right, Ms. West.
I'’m sorry.

Then learn
to pace yourself, Pat.

Or else you'’re going
to burn out like some
used up engine,

can'’t run no more.

Now, you go home
and rest.

Put Shintech away
for a while.

I will.

Go home and rest.

[instrumental music playing]

[dramatic music playing]

[car honking]

[tires screeching]

[glass breaking]

[TV playing]

[car approaching]

[car engine turns off]

[door opening]

Mom? Mom!

Mama, are you okay?

[Darren] Did you
total the car?

No, she didn'’t
total the car.

You kids should
be in bed. Go, go on.

[Christopher] Good night,
Mummy and Daddy.

[James] Okay, everybody
get to bed.

Everything'’s okay now.

[Catherine] Good night, Mom.
Good night, Dad.

They'’re just worried
about you, Pat.

I know. I know.
I'’ll go in there
in a minute.

What am I gonna do
without a car?

Well, first let'’s see
how bad the damage is

Darren and I
could probably do
a lot of the work.

Uh-uh, we cannot
afford this.

Well, we can'’t afford
to lose you either.

I mean it, Pat.
You got to be more careful.

You watch your back.

What do you mean?

Just that, uh...

I don'’t know. The guys
at work have been talking.

And there is that
anonymous flier
going around.

I know where
that flier came from.

Well, it don'’t make it
any easier knowing
where it comes from.

It'’s harder when you know
its your friends or neighbors
who are gunning for you.

I know.

Is all this
really worth it?

Yes, yes, it is, James.

All right.

[Lisa] The EPA can'’t
do this to them.

[Bob] Well, they did.

I assured them
that if all else fails,

they still have
the almighty

Protection Agency.

I mean, how can they
ignore all of our objections?

[Bob] Because they
never saw them.

But we sent them
months ago.

The guy who was
reviewing Shintech
got transferred.

So he gave your comments
to his supervisor--

Who never looked at them.

Said they were misplaced.

So now their friends

at the DEQ are free to go
ahead and issue
the air permits?

It was probably
just an honest
bureaucratic mistake.

-Let'’s just stay cool
and look at this

through another door, okay?

Now, the good news is
the EPA advised both

DEQ and Shintech

to address
the EJ issue.


Environmental Justice.

[Lisa] Our position will be
that it'’s discriminatory.

It'’s a violation of the
Civil Rights Act

that took place
at a facility like Shintech,

in an area that is
predominately poor,
predominantly black,

an area that'’s already

impacted by toxic waste.

We are poor
and mostly black

and all sick of being
dumped on.

So we'’ll petition
the EPA to hear
our arguments.

If they agree...
then Convent could provide
a perfect test case.

Especially since there
are already six
chemical plants here.

Well, what do you mean,
"test case"?

Well, the Environmental
Justice argument,

is based on
a Presidential
order that

Clinton signed
three years ago.

It'’s never been tested.

[Gloria] But they'’ve
already got their
air and water permits.

-We can reverse
all the permits.
-[Emelda] That'’s good.

It'’s about all
of Convent,

but we do need the black
community to come out
strongly against Shintech.

Well, as long as this
doesn'’t become just
about race.

I don'’t see black or white,
I just say wrong is wrong.

[upbeat music playing]

[Emelda] All of us together.

We need your help.

We need your help.

Ms. Emelda.

Things will be
better here, '’cause it's...

Would you look
who'’s coming to dinner!

Janice Dickerson.

Yeah, hey, Roseanne,
I gotta go. James...

he hates me always
being on the phone.

This whole thing
just stinks to
high heaven.

April Larose
called me a racist?

[phone rings]


[man] You stop
messing with our lives,

or we'’re gonna
fix you good.

Who is this? Who is this?

You leave my wife alone!

[Emelda] No, Ms. April.
This is not you here
talking, is it?

That'’s my name there.

"Pat Melancon and friends
have done a complete
about face.

Hung up their sheets,
anointing themselves,

our champions
and protectors."

"Hung up their sheets"?

You know, I have nothing
personal against
Pat Melancon.

Yeah, and here,
look. See?

"The exploitative views

of the color
of our skin,

and our socioeconomic

Now, now, Ms. April,

Where in the last two weeks
did you learn this kind
of vocabulary?

I just happened to know
some words you didn'’t know
I know.

You slinging mud here.

Letting the enemy use you.

That Janice Dickerson
putting words in your mouth.

Pat Melancon
put words in your mouth.

Who'’s saying that?
Not anyone who knows me.

You know anybody who can
put words in my mouth?
No, no, no.

[phone ringing]

[Catherine] That'’s
driving me crazy.

Cath, you know
what'’s going on.

You know, it just
might be for someone
other than you.

[phone ringing]

I can'’t stand
this anymore.

Everybody at school
treats me so weird.

Who at school?

What, the boy, the one
that Chris is always
teasing you about?

Mom, you don'’t know
anything. It'’s
not about boys.

It'’s about this
and what you'’re doing.

What I'’m doing?
What has that got
to do with you?

It'’s got everything to do
with me. You are my mother.

[Emelda] Pat.


Here'’s something to wrap up
the shrimp shells
and other garbage.

Yeah, well it'’s too late.
The EPA is gonna see this
and think that

everybody in Freetown,
all your people are
for Shintech

and I'’m some kinda
brainwashing bigot.

-All my people?
-[door slams]

My people do not all
wear the same color
on the same day or

listen to the same
Louis Armstrong records.

Or eat chicklets
and watermelons.

They'’re individuals,
free to do what they think.

Well, I'’m an individual,
they'’re gonna think
I'’m a racist.

Do you think that, too?

I know you'’re
not a racist, Pat.

You'’re good as gold.
Everybody knows that.

But you got to know that
they'’d send people in there
to divide and conquer.

You know what?
You should take over.

Because I can'’t change
the color of my skin.

and since that'’s
the problem--

Now look, we can'’t
let them do that.

Ms. West, no more speeches.
Not today... please.

Look... Just let it just...
Just... Just...

let it be for a while.

Just... let it be.

-[Pat] Catherine... hey.
-[knocking on door]

Catherine, I'’m sorry.

Can we finish
our talk now?

We weren'’t
having a talk.

Well... I wanna hear
more about what'’s
happening at school.


Sweetheart, I'’m so sorry.

I didn'’t know
that all this was
going on.

Mom, they call you names
like "Crazy Pam Melancon
too big for her breeches"

"the two-bit
coccyx avenger."

Well, honey,
those kids are
just ignorant.

Those kids are
my friends.

Or at least
they used to be.

And now they hardly
ever talk to me
and it'’s not fair.

It'’s not my fault.

Everything was fine
before all this
Shintech crap.

Catherine Elizabeth,
you watch your language.

Who cares about
the language?

I care.

I care.

And I care about you.

I need you
to understand that
I'’m doing this--

Mom, you'’re doing this
for me, yeah, right,

All right, well,
maybe I can...

I don'’t know,
I can go to school,
talk to your teacher--

Mom, just stay out of it.

Stay out of my life.

That should be easy.

[Lisa] Pat, Pat.

Got important news.

The EPA has agreed
to hear our Environmental
Justice argument.

So you better get your
frequent-flier card,

because we'’re going
to Washington.

[all cheering]

I can'’t go.

-I can'’t.
-What'’d you mean
you can'’t go?

We don'’t even
have to pay.

I can'’t do this anymore.

It can'’t be
worth it.

My family is
falling apart.

They'’re dragging
our names through
the mud.

Pat, we cannot
do this without you.

[Pat] Of course, you can.

No, Pat.

You can come at them
with the statistics,
the science,

the history, everything.

Look, no matter what I do,
I'’m gonna be letting
somebody down.

Either my family,
or the group. And I
have to make a choice.

First and foremost,
I am a mother.

And I am a wife.

And I can'’t be those things
and do this, too.

I can'’t.

Hold up. You know
I can'’t walk that fast.

Are you telling me

you'’re just gonna
walk away from us?

After everything your
family has already done?

Already sacrificed?

After everything
you sacrificed,
to get so close?

We'’re not even close.

We'’re Washington DC close.

Ms. West, I'’m sorry,
but I can'’t do this.

Pat, if I could'’ve
fought with you

when my Yolanda
was a baby, she
might be alive today.

But I didn'’t have
nobody like you.

Nobody, no intellectual
to be shouting with.

I was just a lonely voice
in the wilderness.

Nobody took me seriously.

But now, you'’ve
got the facts.

I still got
my loud voice.

We'’re making
a difference together.

We do it to give our kids
a chance and a future.

Pat, you can'’t
walk away!

[car approaching]

[dog barking]

[car door shuts]

I'’m off the phone.

There'’s a chicken
in the oven,
and the couch is yours.

Now, don'’t pass out
from shock.

There. Now, I'’ve got
to pick Catherine up
from her dance class.

-So, I'’ll be back
in ten minutes, okay?
-I lost.

The union election?


Oh, Lord. James,
I'’m so sorry.

This... this is
all my fault.

I guess they got me.

Now, we just got
to make sure
they don'’t get you.

Nobody'’s gonna
get me.

[James] That'’s good.

Because I quit.

-You what?
-Yeah, I... I realized...

that you and the kids
are the most important
thing to me.

I need to be here for you.

-And I'’m not.

I'’m go back to teaching,
and I'’m going to bring
in some money,

so you don'’t
have to work
all the time.

I'’m going to
make this up to you,
James, I promise.

I know you'’re
a hard-headed woman,

you'’re gonna do
what you want,

but I do not think
it'’s right to stop
fighting this now.

No, uh-uh, no.

No, no, not you, too.

I thought this is what
you wanted.

Well, sure I want it.

But you'’ve been fighting
a long time, and now it'’s
starting to make a difference.

They'’re scared of you, Pat,
because you are right.

And they know it.

You can'’t stop now.
That'’s what I mean by
not letting '’em get you.

I lost that election today,
'’cause the guys at the plant,

they don'’t understand
what'’s at stake here.

You still got some
teaching to do,
Mrs. Melancon.

A handful of Louisiana
housewives filed suit
against Shintech.

a Japanese conglomerate
proposing to build

a $700 million
petrochemical plant

in a neighboring
sugarcane field.

The group is calling itself,
The St. James Citizens
for Jobs and the Environment.

And their President
is Pat Melancon,
school teacher and mother.

We have all
the evidence we need

to prove that Shintech'’s plant
poses an unacceptable threat

to the health
of our community.

And if the state
of Louisiana will not
protect us,

then we have got
to take our argument
to a higher level.

Okay. Emelda'’s in the car.
They'’re waiting for you.

I will pick up
Catherine from dance,

and Gloria'’s gonna
take Chris to
basketball practice.

Now, you got
your ticket?

-Oh, Lord, I don'’t know.
-Pat, sweetheart...

It is gonna be fine.

You know everything
backward and forward.

There is nothing
to be nervous about.

It is just a little old
government agency

and you are our pit bull.

I know that. That'’s not
what'’s wrong.

Well, what is it that
has gotten you so jumpy?

I'’ve never flown
in an airplane before.


[Emelda] We thank thee,
Oh, Lord,
for the wings to fly us

safely to our
nation'’s capital.

So that we may raise
our voices in harmony

with the good people
of the Environmental
Protection Agency.

Lord, continue to help us
stop Shintech.

Keep them out of
Convent and Freetown.

Yes, Lord, help us.

Take the power and
help us claim the victory.


[female reporter]
What started as a battle
against toxic waste

in a small
Louisiana town,

has evolved
in the EPA'’s
first test case

on the issue of
Environmental Justice.

Together with
Tulane University'’s

Environmental Law Clinic,

these women have
ruffled some big feathers.

And I'’ll tell you this.

I'’m gonna look
differently at Tulane

from the perspective
of having major tax breaks,

if what they'’re gonna do
is support a bunch
of vigilantes out there

that make their own laws.

They say that
your failure

to appreciate
the people'’s need
for representation

makes you look
like a bully.

Who'’s a bully?

The big fat professors
drawing big salaries,,

trying to run people
out of the state?

Or me, who is saying,
"Please, come to Louisiana,

bring us some jobs,
jump through the hoops
and do it right."

[Pat] Now, we know
it'’s gonna get
meaner and uglier

before it gets better.

But you haven'’t met mean
and you haven'’t met bad

until you'’ve met
a mama protecting
her young.

and that'’s who we are.
We are the mamas

and the daddies
protecting our young.

Pat and most of the others
got kids.

But I'’m free to go
anywhere the organization
needs me.

And I'’ve always said,

I will go all the way
to Japan to tell Shintech
in their backyard

that we don'’t
want them in ours.

[Emelda] We are a small,
poor community.

And we are sick
and tired.

Tired of fighting

for what should
make sense
to most everybody.

Now, we have nothing
personal against you,

or Japan.

But we are

You see this?
This is where

all the people live.

And here is where
your plant is
supposed to go.

Here'’s the school.

I have a petition,
signed by over
1,000 residents.

Some drawings,

art work
from the children.

I know.

You all probably
have little ones, too.

[upbeat music playing]

[phone ringing]

-Have you heard from Tokyo?

She called, but we had
such a bad connection,

all I can hear about was
what a hard time she had
finding a good hamburger.

Where'’s the other
Shintech file?

I think you have
enough here.

Andrea, it'’s public record
and I want to see it.

It'’s still
75 cents a copy.

That'’s okay.
We don'’t need you
to copy them.

[Pat] You know so much
about this,

I feel you could
practically do it
on your own.

Not without you.

What'’re you
talking about?

Was it because of
what the Governor
said about Tulane?

I'’m pregnant.

I didn'’t know
how to tell you.

Oh, no, Lisa. It'’s
the Lord'’s blessing.

I'’m not gonna
be much help
in a few months.

I mean, not
for a while, anyway.

Yeah, I know.

But it'’s you and Ms. West
and it'’s the other ladies who
really make a difference.

You just concentrate
on having a healthy baby.



I hope I'’m half as bad
and mean a mother
as you are.

[people chanting]
Enough is enough!
Enough is enough!

And I knew then,
Praise the Lord,

I'’ve reached
the heart of Shintech.

There was no doubt
in my mind.

See, you can tell a lot
about a man'’s heart

by when he chooses
to move his feet.

Now, you remember that.

I will, Grandma West.

Don'’t call me, Grandma.

Grandma West

[Pat] Hey, Roseanne.

There'’s Meryl and Bob.


-Hey, Bob.

-Hello, Bob.

We got the message
that the EPA vetoed
their air permit.

-Now what?
-Well, it will
buy us some time.

They found over 50
technical errors
in their permit,

including our student'’s
discovery that their

heaters were
actually reactors.

It will take them months
to rewrite those applications.

So, meanwhile we just
brace ourselves
for the next round?

Let'’s just hope
we'’re still here.

The Governor has
asked the state
supreme court

to investigate
the Student Law Clinic,
especially ours.

They could restrict us
representing groups
like yours in the future.

That'’s because we've
been so effective together.

You should be
proud of that.

We are proud,
and we are strong,

and now we got
some marching to do.

-All right.

Hold that banner
real high.

Enough is enough.
Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.
Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

We have marched
from the capital

to the Governor'’s mansion
to find that Governor Foster
has gone fishing.

[crowd groaning]

[Pat] Yeah, that'’s right.
He has gone fishing.

What is it gonna take
for our officials

to realize that $700 million
plant like Shintech

cannot bring back
hundreds of lives.

Excuse me.

Seven hundred million dollars
cannot bring back one
single human life.

[crowd agreeing]

That'’s my mom.

We'’re sitting
on a time bomb

and the future
of our children...

I mean,
all of our children
is at stake.

Now, when
are our officials
gonna wake up?

And realize that they have
to put people first...

[crowd supporting]

And quit putting
profits first.

And we'’re not
gonna go away
until they do.

-Is that right?

We'’re gonna stay
in their face
every single day,

until they clean up
their act.

[crowd applauding]

[ship horn blowing]

-[James] Pat?

[James] Darren left
something for you.

It'’s on the
kitchen table.

[Pat] All right.

[soft music playing]


-Oh, no...

[people chatting]

Lisa? There she is!

With the baby.

[all clamoring]

I'’m good.

What a beautiful boy!

Don'’t worry, Roger.

I'’ve done this once
or twice before.

Thank you
for driving down.

Oh, God, I wouldn'’t
have missed it.

Darren. Hey, Darren.

-Thank you.

And besides, ladies,
I have some information
for you

that I just couldn'’t
phone or fax.

Even though the EPA
hasn'’t ruled yet,

on our Environmental
Justice suit,

What'’s happened now?

Shintech surrendered.

What do you mean?

[Lisa] I mean, they realized
that you ladies weren'’t
gonna go away and they

couldn'’t afford any more
delays, so they cut
their losses and they'’re

gonna locate elsewhere.

Outside of St. James Parish.

Thank you.

[excited exclamations]

[Emelda] We did it!
we did it together,
you see?

We did it together.

We did it!

And the new plant,
by the way,
will be far smaller,

and it will not produce
vinyl chloride, chlorine,
or EDC.

[hooting and cheering]

[rousing music playing]

[Pat] I love it here
so much.

[baby whimpering]

[Lisa] I bet after two years
it feels good to have
your life back.

[Pat] Mmm.

You know, I'’d do it
all over again.

[Lisa] Really?

The people I'’ve met...

Regular, hardworking people,

who care about their kids
and their homes.

It'’s very powerful.

Well, I'’m relieved
it'’s over.

Oh, don'’t talk crazy.

There'’s nothing over.

We stopped Shintech,

but there'’s plenty
other polluters

propelling me
to fight this fight.

You know, I believe your God
has me here for a reason.

You know, I got
a late start.

Like Moses was 80
when He started to use him.

So, I say, "Emelda,
He wants to use you
right now."

And with Pat Melancon
and Lisa LaVie,

white, black, old, young.

You know, I don'’t have
a college degree.

But with Pat, we'’re
a hard combination to stop.

Oh, yes! Oh, yes!

[upbeat music playing]